So many kids love reading comics, but it can be hard to find high-quality, original, diverse, age-appropriate graphic novels and comics for kids. It’s taken me several years to build up my big list of recommended comics for kids (which also has a comics for kids Pinterest board version) but I’m committed to promoting as many good books as I can find.
So here’s the latest installment of comics for kids, starting with good comics for even the youngest kiddos. Happy reading!
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Written and Drawn by Henrietta, by Liniers.
I loved this book. It follows a little girl as she breaks out a new box of colored pencils. She draws her own comic, which we read along with her cat, who provides commentary. It’s about creating art, with a very light touch, and young artists and writers should find it inspiring! Or just a lot of fun. If Henrietta weren’t fictional, I’d give her a book deal right away. It’s hardest to find good comics for the very youngest children, so I’m always excited to find a winner!
Mr. Pants: Trick or Feet by Scott McCormick, with pictures by R.H. Lazzell
I recommended the Mr. Pants series when we’d only read the first two books. The first one cracked me up, but the second one didn’t feel like it quite came together – despite some very funny parts. This one, though? This is GOLD.
Mr. Pants, Grommy, and Foot Foot (3 cats who live with their mom as though they were human children) have BIG plans for Halloween. The annual Zombie Tag game is going to be great! Trick or Treating is going to be great! All they need are costumes, which Mommy is NOT allowed to make this year. Not after last year’s debacle. (“I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be!”) But the costume shop is cleaned out by the time they get there. And Mommy’s bought them all airplane tickets to visit grandparents. WHAT?! Add a freak snowstorm and things aren’t going to end well. Or are they?
McCormick tells this story with so much confidence, setting up jokes early in the book that pay off chapters later. Chapter five is one of the best things I’ve ever read in comics, and chapter seven is a sweet fulfillment of little Grommy’s heartfelt desire. Siblings CAN be nice to each other! Even if they’re cats. If you’re not reading this series already, get caught up!
Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick, with color by Guy Major
Judging by this book’s cover, I assumed that the blond kid in the center was the main character, and the two POC kids would basically be sidekicks. I was so tickled to be wrong. (Though the cover-as- marketing-tool’s message could be discussed…) The main character of this book is actually D.J. Lim, the kid on the left. He’s one of five kids, and – according to him – the only one of those five kids who doesn’t excel at anything. The only thing he excelled at was being friends with Gina, the gal on the cover, before her family moved away three years ago.
Now Gina’s family has moved back… right after D.J. found his new friend Hilo. Okay, he’s kind of a friend. And by “found” I mean D.J. found him in a hole in the ground. With amnesia, wearing nothing but silver underwear. The events of the story may center around D.J. and Gina helping Hilo figure out who he is and where he came from, but it’s quite clear to me that this is just as much D.J.’s story of self-discovery. He needs to update the picture of himself that he’s been holding onto since Gina left. Meanwhile, there’s a super-exciting superhero story going on, as Hilo struggles to recover his memory, and discovers his amazing abilities when the kids are attacked by robot bugs.
All in all, a very satisfying friendship and adventure story combined, about a diverse trio of kids who are all fantastic in their own way. Boy Detective would like to know when the next book will be out PLEASE. (That would be approximately May 2016, according to Amazon.)
More like this: Good Superhero Comics For Kids, which are about right for kiddos past preschool, or younger if the kid and their family are okay with cartoon violence.
Alabaster Shadows by Matt Gardner, illustrated by Rashad Doucet, with lettering by Ryan Ferrier
When Carter and Polly Normandy move into the Alabaster Shadows development, they’re not optimistic. They don’t know anyone. All the houses look the same. The head of the Community Council clearly despises children. Then Mr. Randolph, who works in the development’s office, asks them to watch for anything strange. What a weirdo, thinks Carter… until he finds something in their new basement that should not be there. Carter discovers that other kids at school have had strange experiences. They never would have guessed what their investigation uncovers.
Doucet’s art is a little messier than I usually prefer, but it gets the job done. Gardner paces out the action and danger well, giving the reader points to breathe. For team #WeNeedDiverseBooks, of which I am an enthusiastic member, note that Polly and Carter are biracial, with a white dad and a black mom. I’m definitely pleased to have a children’s graphic novel with a POC lead character. But all the other major speaking roles are white characters, which seemed a little strange. My favorite character is Polly, and I’m hoping she gets a bigger role in the second volume, which would help balance that out.
Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell
England, 1867. Every town has its own monster, which periodically rampages through the city leaving destruction in its wake. Also, excited kids and stands selling souvenir merchandise. The only exception is Stoker-on-Avon. Their monster, Rayburn, hasn’t attacked in almost two years. He just stays up on the hill, moping. Now it’s up to a disgraced scientist and a scrappy street urchin to help Rayburn get his monster mojo back. The prescription? Road trip! Which sounds like a good idea except for one small piece of information that Rayburn missed in monster school. We read this with our six year old, who adored it, but there’s possibly a bit of mild “language” and one distressing scene when a nice character is believed to be murdered. Pre-read if you’re concerned.
Imagine Agents by Brian Joines, illustrated by Bachan, with colors by Ruth Redmond, letters by Deron Bennett, and additional character design by Khary Randolph
A secret entity that polices children’s imaginary friends? And those imaginary friends are starting a revolution so their evil leader can take over the world? How did Joines come up with this? This book is zany fun, and also has so much heart. Agents Dave and Terry are up against Dave’s nemesis Dapple, with a kid caught in between, so it’s up to them to save the world AND the hostage. The characters are all interesting, even the “bad guys,” and there are plenty of laughs to go along with the danger. We read this with our seven year old, who adored it, but heads up that there’s a tiny bit of mild “language.”
I’d previously recommended the Hazardous Tales series, highlighting Big Bad Ironclad, but this installment deserves its own time to shine. Hale tells the story of Harriet Tubman, born enslaved, who would go on to lead numerous African-Americans to freedom – as well as serve as a spy against the Confederate Army. Hale isn’t afraid to use humor, and portray Tubman as a real person instead of an inaccessible icon. A real person who could totally kick your ass.
Hale doesn’t sugarcoat slavery for the sake of keeping the story light, which I totally respect. This was a great book in our house for building on picture books we’d read about slavery when Boy Detective was younger. I’m for any book that gets kids to joyfully and respectfully celebrate heroes like Tubman.
Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson
Dana Simpson continues to kill it with this third volume of the Phoebe series. The premise: a young girl has managed to make a self-adoring unicorn be her best friend. In this book, the duo face magic hair, goblins, and coffee-fueled sparkle overloads, among other bizarro situations. The books have stayed consistently funny, with a great mix of short story arcs, one-page jokes, and callbacks to events earlier in the series. You don’t have to read them in order, though, but if you haven’t jumped in yet, see if your library has them all.
I’m not laughing so hard I can’t breathe anymore like in the first book, because I’ve adapted to Simpson’s sense of humor so she can’t catch me off guard. However, for two days after Boy Detective and I read this one, we kept saying “hey remember that thing when…” and then laughing together because it really was just so funny. It’s perfect cheer-up material for a gloomy day!
Earthlight by Stuart Moore, illustrated by Chris Schons
Damon Cole is the new kid at school. In his case, school is on the Moon. It’s a small school, so the new kid sticks out… and when your father’s the station administrator and your mother’s a teacher, you really stick out. To make things even worse, Damon’s been friendly towards a cute girl in his class, which her abusive boyfriend does not like. On the moon, he’s told, kids have to solve their own problems. The adults are too busy. So it’s up to Damon to figure things out. Expect some bad decision-making in the process, but Damon has a good heart and a reasonably good head on his shoulders. Which is good, because at the end of the book, we find out things are about to get a lot more complicated.
This is a solid manga-inspired drama series about teenagers that treats them as real people. Schons balances the manga art influence without going overly stylized. I also enjoyed the cast being so diverse and international. Damon and his father are African-American. His mother is white and British. Other students at the school are identified as Chinese and Russian, and we see background characters who look like they’re from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds. A much more realistic view of the future than everyone in space being white Americans. I’ve reserved the next volume of this from the library so I can find out what happens next. The end of the first book was quite a surprise!
Family Pets by Pat Shand and Sarah Dill, with letters by Jim Campbell
Thomasina’s parents died when she was five. She moved in with her grandmother, then they moved in with her aunt, uncle, and cousins when money got too tight. Now she’s in high school. She’s not loving life. Her best friend is a pet snake. She doesn’t feel close to her family. But that doesn’t mean she’s okay with her family turning into animals, and she’s really not okay with her pet snake disappearing. Okay, kind of disappearing. (No spoilers, Skye!) Who cast the spell that did all this damage? And how’s Thomasina going to fix it?
There’s a lot of emotion here, but it doesn’t get too heavy. Dill has a lot of fun with character designs and expressions, and Shand keeps the story moving nicely. There’s a love/crush sub-plot with a little bit of rivalry, but nothing extreme. The snake provides comic relief, and it feels great when Thomasina’s family starts pulling together. Plus, Latina protagonist in a graphic novel, HURRAY!
Calamity Jack, written by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale, with coloring and lettering assistance (from parties who are IMHO unclearly credited on the title page)
Calamity Jack is the follow-up to Rapunzel’s Revenge. The first 40-odd pages give us the previously untold story of Jack’s criminal past. The rest of the book is what happens when Jack brings Punzie home… kind of. Home (his family’s bakery) seems to have been destroyed in his absence. Also, a bad guy whom Jack crossed on his way out of town is now running everything. Oops. What follows is an Old West Steampunk monster-fighting adventure complete with giant ants and a love triangle. Rapunzel is her usual badass self, Jack is a dork with a heart of gold, and it was completely satisfying.
And there’s something I hadn’t realized when reading Rapunzel’s Revenge. This is a fantasy story, so I don’t want to say Jack is Native American or First Nations, but artist Hale depicts him and his family with clothing and hairstyles inspired by one or more Native American or First Nations cultures. The words “chief” and “clan” are used. I’m too ignorant to analyze what’s going on here for any accuracy. Hale is a history buff, but that doesn’t mean he got it right, and there’s certainly no content here addressing the culture or history of indigenous people in the Americas. But it’s interesting to observe and think about this family’s place in this magical alt-history.
Cannons in the Clouds by Daniel Woolley and Anne Gresham, art by Jorge Donis, colors by Kirsty Swan, and letters by Peter Semeti.
Steampunk adventure and fisticuffs! Plucky teen girl protagonist! Pirates! Woolley and Gresham take a storyline of “rich girl hates wearing dresses and studying boring stuff, prefers adventure” and set it in a word rich with political conspiracy and interesting characters. Sela, our main character, is rebellious but not (quite) reckless, and as a smart action heroine she’s totally believable. (Her cagey best friend is my favorite, though.) I’m intrigued to see where this story goes.
And that’s our latest list of recommended comics for kids! If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing this post on social media or with friends, so more people can find these great books!